Meridian Public Library’s Little Free Libraries book-sharing boxes servicing surrounding communities with easily accessible books exchange throughout Bosque County
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” – Dr Seuss from “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!”
MERIDIAN – Many people know this quote. But what does it mean? It means that books in particular help you learn about new things and the more you learn, the wider your scope of imagination will be, taking you places you never dreamed of.
The Meridian Public Library wants this enrichment for all residents in Bosque County, not just Meridian. To that end, departing Board President Pam Hardcastle suggested extending the library’s reach by offering mini library boxes in the town’s surrounding, underserved communities, making books easier accessible to the outlying, more remote towns.
They have partnered with Little Free Library, a world-wide nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, with the mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.
According to reports, the United States is facing a growing literacy crisis, with more than 30 million adults who cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Studies have repeatedly shown that books in the hands of children have a meaningful impact on improving literacy. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read. But two out of three children living in low socio-economic circumstances have no books to call their own.
“We truly hope it will make difference in literacy in our community and believe it is already catching on.” MPL Director Marianne Woerner said. “Besides being a way to improve literacy by making books easily available, this is a library community service project, in which we get to give back to the community.”
Other ways the MPL stimulates reading and books is through a book club, weekly story time for pre-school youth and a rack of free books outside the library.
The Little Free Library book-sharing boxes play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to books (and encouraging a love of reading!) in areas where books are scarce and to homes without books. Through Little Free Library book exchanges, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
“I see it a lot here in the library, that it’s a thrill to be the first one to read a new book,” Woerner said. “It is so wonderful to see the excitement in their faces. Every child should be able to get a brand new book to read, and the boxes supply that opportunity.”
To assist with the monies needed to fund the project – buying the weather-proof boxes made from recycled materials and the book contents – the MPL applied and received a very generous, nearly $7,600 grant from Texan New Mexico Power.
TNMP Power Grants strengthen communities served by TNMP with financial investment. And this MPL project fit their requirement for innovative and creative proposals in community outreach and education.
Meridian Grassroots assisted building the bases and placing the mini libraries in eight different locations: across from the Community Center in Cranfills Gap, three in Meridian – at Bosque Bottoms, the Community Garden and an outlying location north of town – one in Morgan at the Texaco gas station, one in Walnut Springs at City Hall, one in Kopperl at the school and one in Valley Mills at the elementary school. Iredell and the Meridian State Park have book exchange boxes services through Scout projects.
Through the collaboration with Little Free Library, MPL is part of something bigger, and it puts Bosque County “on the map” showing the locations of the eight little libraries in the area.
Local stewards stock and maintain the boxes’ content and thanks to the TNMP grant the MPL buys the books. Through the feedback on the books most taken, the MPL adapts the selection. Just before Christmas, Morgan’s steward, MPL board member Lori Choate, picked up a series of children’s’ books – like the “Bad Kitty,” “Dog Man,” and Llama Llama seriesand some Christmas titles to ensure families can share some reading time together during the holidays.
Because there is nothing better than curling up in a cozy chair wrapped in a soft woolen blanket, and read a physical book – turning the pages, feeling the paper texture, smelling the ink, the weight of the volume. And it gets even better if you have a child cuddled against you asking you to read that favorite story one more time.
On a side note, the people of the tiny North Atlantic Ocean island Iceland have a unique and charming way to celebrate Christmas that specifically has to do with the feeling of well-being when taking time to read a book, alone or together – they give books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spend the night reading them, while enjoying a mug of hot cocoa on the cold and dark wintery Christmas Eve.
In the four months the MPL boxes have been up and running, the MPL has received a lot of positive feedback and have seen significant use of the boxes. The stewards regularly come in to get more books to fill the boxes. As people take a book, they are encouraged to add a book, if they have one. This allows for the exchange of multiple books and increase the available selection. They have also seen that the books people are sharing are in good shape and worthwhile, and that the boxes are treated respectfully.
“It is such a great thing to see that people are taking and reading the books,” Woerner said. “And if they are not able to put a replacement book back, thanks to the generous TNMP grant we can keep refilling the boxes.”
The Little Library boxes are causing quite the excitement when set up within a community. They bring books close to home and inspire reading for every one of all ages. “It’s exciting to see how this project progresses and see how the boxes are used,” Woerner said. The library is already planning to add two more boxes in the near future.
The MPL selects the titles for the library boxes from best seller lists like the New York Times Bestsellers, Reese’s Book Club and their book wholesaler Ingram. They also add books that are popular at the library. Sometimes the library gets books donated that are already in the inventory. If they are in good shape, they are also used in the library boxes.
Because the Little Free Library book-sharing boxes are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, are freely accessible to all, they remove barriers to book access.
Because of the location near the school, the box at the Morgan Texaco station is primarily filled with children’s books. Wanting to do anything positive for the kids, station owner Kareem Noorani is happy the box is so well used, especially when school is closed. It has spurred interest for a second box to be placed at City Hall with books for adults.
Just before Christmas a young man from Walnut Springs who loves to read came to the MPL with his mother. He enjoyed the books from the Little Library so much, he was inspired to read more and to get a library card. He went home with a whole stack of books to read during the holidays. Needless to say, Woerner was thrilled to see this secondary positive effect for the library.
The book mobiles of yesteryear that serviced more remote rural communities have been replaced by e-books on e-readers. And whereas that is a good thing with regards to accessible literature and books, Meridian Public Library also wants kindle the joy of reading a physical book. The Little Library boxes with the “Take a book. Share a book,” philosophy fit the bill.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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